A Wrong Form of Devotion

JSP3

Another horror week.

Suicide bombings in Beirut have killed 43 people and left 238 wounded. A suicide bombing at a funeral in Baghdad killed 19 people and left 31 wounded. And coordinated attacks in Paris have killed 129 people and left 352 wounded.

We are appalled, grieved and saddened.

There is something desperately wrong with an ideology which by direction or by implication can lead to the killing of one for the sake of another’s personal devotion.

Misguided as any individual might be, to gather with others and coordinate attacks that will intentionally harm others in the name of your ‘god’ or for your own individual benefit is a wrong form of devotion.

There is a reason we are not seeing acts like this attributed to militant Hinduism, exclusive Buddhism or radical Christianity – those religions by direction or implication don’t lead to the taking of anothers life in the name of devotion. Islam does.

Whilst it is true that there are many (maybe most) Muslims who do not ascribe to the militant actions of these Islamic terrorists, and whilst it is true that these Muslims now (more than most) would feel the isolation and trauma of these actions, and whilst it is true that it is Muslims that in most cases are the ones hurt most by militant Islamist’s, and whilst it is true that there are parts of the Qur’an that explicitly reject the taking of another life (Qur’an 5:32 ‘whoever kills a soul unless for a murder or for corruption in the land, it is as if he had slain mankind’) – we should not protect Islam as a worthwhile religion or ideology.

Australians, if thoughtful, are intelligent enough so see that there is a stark difference between religions and each one of these Islamic attacks tragically draws that distinction out more and more obviously.

Christianity sees the death of a saviour. Unlike Islam, this saviour died for the sake of others not the cost of others. This saviour died to save many not to kill many. This saviour preached salvation and brought salvation so that those who follow would live in grace (c.f. Rom 5:8; Eph 2:1-10; Phil 2:1-11; Peter 3:18;)

Jesus said ‘You have heard it said ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy’ but I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those you persecute you’ (Matt 5:43-44).

How different it is for the follower of Allah who does what they must for their own gain despite the hurt and damage they might do along the way? How different it must be to live in fear, shame and aggressive obedience to the rule of Sharia Law? How different it must be to have enemies that you have to pursue because the idea of forgiveness is viewed as a sign of weakness? How different it must be to live without grace?

Pray for Paris – and Baghdad and Beirut and for all those who now grieve lost ones.

Dear Loving and Gracious Father,

We reel as we hear about the tragic attacks on people of Beirut and Baghdad and Paris (the latest in what has been too many attacks this year). The loss of life, the damage to persons, malicious in intent, misguided in purpose, traumatic for those left behind and unjust in almost every way.

We are broken-hearted at the pictures we see of death and destruction, at the stories we see of families grieving this terrible loss of life. We pray that you would bring healing to those recovering and comfort to those grieving.

We pray for the governments and law enforcement agencies who are responding to this terror that you would equip them to break the cycle of hate, to respond with justice, compelled by love.

We pray for those emergency and medical personnel who are treating survivors, that you would sustain them and give them wisdom and skill, helping them to save many by your hand.

We pray for those around the world feeling outraged by this situation, that they would be moved to act with love. And we pray that Christians would respond to hatred with love, in a way that makes your Gospel clear.

We pray for those in our world — our muslim neighbours — who may be caught up in reprisals, or viewed as complicit in these attacks. We pray for their protection and care. We also pray that if anything, these attacks may give them reason to turn their backs on Islamic faith and teaching and turn to Christ.

We pray for those inspired by these attacks, who share the beliefs of the attackers, that you would move in their hearts and change their view of victory in the light of Jesus’ ultimate victory.

Lord we pray that you would help us to resist the temptation to take up arms or to keep fanning the flames of hatred towards our neighbours or enemies. Help us to forgive.

We pray that we would trust that you have truly won the victory over sin and death at the Cross, and that this message of hope and victory, is the message that the world hears.

Work in us by your Spirit to give us the mind of Christ to know how to speak about this situation, to pray about it, and to step into this broken world as your counter-cultural disciples.

Finally, we ask that you would return soon to make all things new, to make the defeat of sin and death our experience as well as our reality.

We pray these things in Jesus name, Amen.

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